The secrets to aging well and living a long healthy life are not really secrets after all.  When studied, some of the most basic understandings about health seem to have a common effect on humans.  Who would have guessed that eating healthy foods, staying active and not smoking would extend your life expectancy.  So while we pour millions of dollars into the next miracle drug, or wonder fruit or magical berry or secret special root form the rainforest that will be the fountain of youth, we already have inside of us all of the resources to live a wonderful, long, full healthy life.  It is our genetic destiny to do so.

For those that like the science, the following is from a A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (2009;169(15):1355-1362).

Never smoking, having a body mass index lower than 30 (calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared), performing 3.5 h/wk or more of physical activity, and adhering to healthy dietary principles (high intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain bread and low meat consumption) showed significant benefit for longevity and health.  Adhering to these 4 simple healthy lifestyle factors can have a strong impact on the prevention of chronic diseases.  The study followed 23,153 German participants aged 35 to 65 years over the course of almost 8 years.

The researchers looked at type 2 diabetes, myocardial infarction (heart attack), stroke and cancer.  They found a direct correlation between these 4 lifestyle habits and a decrease in the incidence of these four chronic deadly diseases.  For all 4 diseases, having a low BMI was the most effective in lower the incidence, especially with diabetes and stroke.  The following is a chart from the article:

The shorter the bar the less likely you are to get that disease.

The following table also shows the breakdown with all the possible combinations of the four habits and the overall likelihood of getting any of the diseases.

It seems as though the common sense habits that we all have heard, exercise, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, don’t smoke, and don’t be overweight, have a scientifically measurable effect on the length and quality of your life as you age.  So while you may know a guy down the street who had a great aunt that smoked and drank a liter of whiskey every day of her life yet lived to be 102, the reality is that simple healthy living is what really works most of the time.